June 14, 2013

Batting trips up Pakistan again

The Champions Trophy debacle was just another example of how frail Pakistan's batting has been over the last few years

All stats in the tables below exclude matches played against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and other non-Test-playing sides

Pakistan's bowlers have long been accustomed to making up for the deficiencies of their batsmen, but it was a bridge too far even for their talented pace and spin attack in the Champions Trophy, as Pakistan crashed out of the tournament with two defeats, both largely because of batting failures. Against West Indies they scored only 170, and against South Africa they meekly folded up for 167 when chasing 235. Their match against India should have been one of the key games of the Champions Trophy; instead, the only significance in the context of the tournament might be to determine India's ranking in the group.

Batting letting Pakistan down has been a recurring theme in their cricket, especially in the last few years. That's clear from the table below, which lists the overall win-loss ratios and the batting numbers for each team against the top eight sides (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). India have the best batting average, run rate, and win-loss ratio (64 wins, 37 losses), which reinforces the fact that batsmen shape the results of ODIs more than bowlers do. Pakistan, on the other hand, languish at No. 8 in terms of average and run rate. Even Bangladesh have a higher average, though, along with Zimbabwe, they are the only one with a lower run rate.

As a bowling unit, Pakistan are outstanding - they average 31.70 per wicket, and concede 4.95 runs per over. In terms of average, only South Africa and Australia have done better, while they are the only side to concede less than five an over. Their bowling's the reason Pakistan's win-loss ratio is the sixth-best, despite their batting stats being eighth. However, they still score at a slower rate than they concede runs (4.80 to 4.95), and score fewer runs per wicket than they concede. Despite Pakistan's wonderful bowling, they still languish among the second lot of teams in terms of their win-loss ratio, well below those of India, South Africa, Australia, England and Sri Lanka.

ODI stats for each team since Jan 2009
Team Matches W/L W/L ratio Average Run rate 100s/ 50s
India 109 64/ 37 1.72 36.71 5.58 41/ 134
South Africa 64 37/ 26 1.42 35.62 5.40 22/ 86
Australia 116 66/ 43 1.53 33.93 5.13 26/ 158
England 84 43/ 37 1.16 32.50 5.21 17/ 88
Sri Lanka 102 46/ 48 0.95 30.89 5.14 27/ 113
New Zealand 72 24/ 41 0.58 27.38 5.08 11/ 71
Bangladesh 50 17/ 32 0.53 27.13 4.77 6/ 55
Pakistan 82 32/ 48 0.66 26.64 4.80 14/ 85
West Indies 69 16/ 48 0.33 25.80 4.93 9/ 65
Zimbabwe 32 5/ 27 0.18 24.67 4.50 5/ 34

In terms of batting averages, Pakistan's is 27% below India's, which is a significant difference even after allowing for the fact that they have played many of their matches in the UAE, where conditions aren't the most favourable for batsmen looking for quick runs. The last column of the table above illustrates one of the problems with their batting: their inability to score centuries, and convert their fifties into something more substantial. India's batsmen have scored 41 hundreds in 109 matches, an average of roughly one every two and a half games; they have also scored 41 hundreds out of 175 fifty-plus scores, which means roughly once out of four times a half-century has been converted into a century. South Africa's conversion is similar, while they have scored a hundred once in three games.

Pakistan's ratios are much poorer: 14 centuries in 82 matches works out to an average of one in six games. They have also gone past fifty 99 times in these matches, of which only 14 have been converted into hundreds, a ratio of one in seven. That's about as good as Australia's ratio, but Australia have had many more 50-plus scores - 184 in 116 matches, or 1.6 per match - than Pakistan, which has made up for the fact that their conversion rate isn't as good as India's or South Africa's.

A look at the individual batsmen reveals the culprits, or at least some of them. All the numbers below are also against the top sides, and among those who have scored at least 500 runs against them, only Misbah-ul-Haq and Nasir Jamshed have 400-plus averages. (Click here for the full list.) Misbah's strike rate, though, is only 69, which is clearly below average. That's partly because he has often had to rebuild after the team has lost quick wickets, but it's still an aspect of his game which has been questioned. The impressive Jamshed has a healthy strike rate of 77, while the only other top-order batsman who has combined a reasonable average with a good strike rate is Umar Akmal. Mohammad Hafeez averages 31, but you'd want more from a batsman who usually opens the innings and gets the opportunity to bat long periods.

The rest have been pretty ordinary: Younis Khan batted as many as 58 innings and averaged less than 23, Shoaib Malik has averaged less than 24, while Asad Shafiq has managed five half-centuries in 29 innings at a strike rate of less than 70.

A common problem for most of the Pakistan batsmen is obvious from the last column of the table below: their high dot-ball percentage. It's normal for the openers to have a slightly higher dot-ball factor because of the number of fielders within the circle, but good middle-order players should have a percentage of less than 50. AB de Villiers has a percentage of 40, Suresh Raina 46, Michael Hussey 44, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni 48. However, the table below shows that all Pakistan batsmen save Shahid Afridi have a dot-ball percentage of more than 50. In fact, for most of them it's around 55 or more. Among the batsmen in the list below, Misbah, Shafiq, Younis and Malik all bat usually in the middle order, and all of them have dot-ball percentages in the mid-50s.

All of this analysis doesn't even include Imran Farhat, whose place in the Champions Trophy squad has come under plenty of scrutiny. Farhat averages 30.69 from 58 ODIs over a career which has stretched 12 years, but in overseas or neutral venues it drops further to 27.13, at a strike rate of 67. In the period in question, and against the top sides, Farhat has averaged 29.26 at a strike rate of 67 - which isn't worse than most of his team-mates - scoring 439 in 15 innings. He hasn't been a regular in the last few years, but what probably prompted his selection for the Champions Trophy was his 93 against South Africa in Durban earlier this year. His summer performances have been awful though: in five innings he has scored 64, and that includes three games against Scotland and Ireland. Like all the other Pakistan batsmen, Farhat has struggled with the dot balls too - his percentage since 2009 is 62.16, the highest among the lot.

Pakistan batsmen in ODIs since Jan 2009
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s Dot-ball%
Misbah-ul-Haq 55 1825 44.51 68.84 0/ 15 55.30
Mohammad Hafeez 55 1647 31.07 76.71 3/ 10 59.66
Umar Akmal 52 1562 35.50 83.04 1/ 11 51.36
Shahid Afridi 66 1423 22.58 122.77 1/ 5 40.38
Younis Khan 58 1290 22.63 66.67 0/ 8 54.88
Kamran Akmal 51 1236 25.75 82.67 1/ 6 59.26
Asad Shafiq 29 754 27.92 68.54 0/ 5 56.45
Shoaib Malik 35 731 23.58 70.76 1/ 1 56.15
Nasir Jamshed 16 686 45.73 76.99 3/ 2 56.23
Abdul Razzaq 27 578 27.52 89.61 1/ 1 50.70
Salman Butt 18 540 31.76 71.24 1/ 5 61.35

Breaking up the 50-over innings into three bits, it's clear that Pakistan tend to lose plenty of ground at the start of their innings: they average 28.69 at a run rate of 4.07 and a dot-ball percentage of more than 70, all of which are much poorer than most of the other top sides. Their numbers in the middle overs are reasonable, but they haven't finished particularly well either, an area which used to be their strength once upon a time. All of this has put plenty of pressure on their bowlers to perform the rescue act, and while they've done that on several occasions, the Champions Trophy wasn't one of them.

Over-wise break-ups for each team in ODIs since Jan 2009
  First 10 overs 10.1 to 40 overs 40.1 to 50 overs
Team Runs per wkt Runs per over Dot ball % Runs per wkt Runs per over Dot ball % Runs per wkt Runs per over Dot ball %
England 45.64 5.04 65.26 35.77 4.93 49.60 19.35 6.85 40.14
South Africa 44.38 5.00 63.25 43.35 5.13 45.23 20.50 7.08 37.50
Australia 37.04 4.64 66.27 39.71 4.75 51.69 23.56 7.28 36.20
India 34.66 5.20 63.18 43.88 5.33 48.38 24.86 7.37 38.91
Sri Lanka 34.14 5.05 65.27 37.15 4.78 51.92 18.82 6.90 38.49
Bangladesh 31.02 4.68 67.86 29.56 4.36 55.61 19.93 6.67 42.81
Pakistan 28.69 4.07 71.36 32.44 4.69 52.87 16.04 6.47 45.56
New Zealand 28.68 4.55 70.22 30.03 4.72 53.21 21.31 7.47 40.33
West Indies 27.81 4.50 69.25 28.35 4.70 56.28 18.62 6.83 44.19
Zimbabwe 27.08 3.89 71.72 26.08 4.29 56.40 19.88 6.36 45.14

All stats updated till the seventh match of the 2013 Champions Trophy, between Australia and New Zealand.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter